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AGHS INVESTIGATIONS


Maitland Gaol

Quarantine Station (Manly)

Monte Cristo Homestead (Australia's Most Haunted House)

Picton (Including Mushroom Tunnel)

Female Orphan School (Parramatta)

Wolondilly Shire Hall (Picton)

Government House (Parramatta)

Old Melbourne Gaol

Geelong Gaol

Fisher's Ghost - Australia's Most Famous Ghost

THE INVESTIGATION OF HAUNTINGS
Australian Ghost Hunters Society

AN EXTRACT FROM PETER UNDERWOOD

The following information was kindly given to us from Peter Underwood with permission to reprint


Methods and modes of investigation must of necessity vary according to the circumstances of the case, and each haunting will have its own peculiarities and significant aspects which the ghost hunter must discover, and he will then arrange his investigation accordingly.

Peter UnderwoodThe principal purpose of any investigation into a haunting is to establish the objectivity of reported paranormal activity. To do so it is necessary to eliminate all other possible explanations for what has been experienced, so the serious ghost hunter will endeavor to find out all he possibly can about:

-the house itself and its occupants

-the ground it stands on and the surrounding area

- any relevant history of either

- and in fact get as full, complete and rounded a picture as possible of the environment in which the reported happenings are taking place.

Only then will he attempt a scientific investigation of the house and the reported phenomena.

It is necessary to bear in mind that different people will investigate any given haunting in different ways, and however much we try to be impartial and non-partisan our natural outlook attitude, beliefs, experience and approach to the subject will affect not only our methods of investigation but also colour our reports and affect the value of our judgment in reporting any allegedly experienced phenomena.

To illustrate this fact it is only necessary to look at two extremes, investigation by a psychical research body and by a spiritualist society. The former, equipped with all manner of elaborate and often specially-designed apparatus, will seek to establish the reality and objectivity of the haunting on a 'scientific' basis, using:
sound-recording instruments; still and cine cameras loaded with infra-red and normal film; an infrared telescope (for seeing in the dark); electrical gadgets for automatically photographing and recording the presence of any 'ghost' by trip-wires or by the breaking of an electrical circuit; thermographs and other apparatus for measuring and automatically recording atmospheric conditions; frequency change detectors, vibration registers, voltmeters and other equipment for checking electrical power and locating faults.

As a general rule it is a good idea to keep investigating apparatus to a minimum. Just as convincing and worthwhile results can be obtained with very simple equipment as with the most complicated – and there is less likelihood of technical faults or interference.
The spiritualist, on the other hand and perhaps at the other extreme, when carrying out the investigation of a haunted house, will take with him one or two mediums (persons known to be endowed with psychic awareness); they will hold seances, pray for the ‘earthbound spirit’, hold a ‘rescue circle’ and generally endeavor to reach and placate the haunting entity on a spiritual basis.

The unbiased ghost hunter will probably wish to carry out his investigations somewhere midway between these methods of dealing with haunting's. He should endeavor therefore to have available essential practical items and at the same time keep an open mind as to the causation of the disturbances; bearing equally in mind the possibility of the phenomena being manifestations of an after-life and open to a practical and scientific explanation.

In all haunted house investigations it is advisable to be accompanied by several reliable and sensible friends, and if they are adept in any particular fields – sound-recording, photography, note-taking, interviewing – or sensitive in a psychic sense, so much the better. It is important to eliminate anyone of a nervous disposition, for hours in any empty house, especially at night, can play all kinds of tricks with the imagination, and nervousness is catching.

An early exercise, in fact as soon as possible after arrival, is to make a thorough examination of the whole house, and this should be done as a combined effort with everyone present.

First of course a careful list of all occupants of the house will be compiled, with approximate ages and such other details as may be forthcoming (occupation, hobbies, condition of health, principal witness, sceptic, believer, etc); also note any pets and their usual place or places of habitation (e.g. a cat may live in the kitchen but sleep on its mistress's bed at night; or there may be a cat-door giving access not only to the pet of the house but also to its friends).
During the course of this tour of the property care should be taken to locate and note exactly the position of the mains switches, fuse boxes, power plugs and light switches. This is also the time, in the event of old and rambling houses, to ask about possible secret rooms, hidden cupboards, priests' hiding places, sliding panels and any other little-known aspect of the property.
A large-scale Ordnance Survey Map or one of John Bartholomew’s excellent 1:100000 National series will tell you a good deal before you even visit the area; a 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map will be even more useful, and from such a map you will be able to glean a great deal of information. Not only will such obviously helpful information as the proximity of rivers and streams, footpaths, railway lines, roads, tracks, rights of way, and lakes, be evident, but also the shape of buildings, their exact position in relation to farms and other buildings and the height of ground in the area, and in addition such helpful knowledge as the position of wells, ancient sites and monuments, woods, slopes, pipe lines, refuse tips and a host of natural features.
The exact position of the house you are interested in will of course be shown, which will be important in taking into account the prevailing winds, the rising and setting of the sun and so on. Maps that expressly indicate geological information should also be studied to acquaint the investigator with the natural strata of the subsoil in the immediate and surrounding area.

There is no doubt that occasionally, and perhaps more frequently than is usually realised, movement of objects and ‘groans’ in a house can be the result of natural but unrealised geological factors such as earth tremors and pressure of underground water. Guy Lambert, BA, CB, President of the Society for Psychical Research 1955 – 8, studied this geophysical theory for poltergeist phenomena and other disturbances in haunted houses and he came to the conclusion that such incidents were frequently reported within three miles of tidal water and not only in reportedly haunted properties in England, Scotland and Wales but also in France and other European countries and in the Americas.
Lambert maintained that noises of various kinds, from raps, taps and footsteps to heavy crashing noises and sounds that could be taken for furniture being moved, might well be accounted for by such natural events; as might the 'movement' of objects which could be shaken off shelves inside the house or cause loose stones or slates or tiles to fall off walls and roofs outside. He also believed that such movement could account for doors opening and closing by themselves. At a meeting of The Ghost Club, Lambert forcefully explained his well-researched theories adding that such happenings might well frighten the occupants to the extent of their having hallucinations of sight, hearing, smell and temperature and of misinterpreting natural phenomena for supernormal activity; clouds of drifting mist, for example, being 'seen' as moving white figures. Lambert also drew attention to luminous appearances – which seem very strange and frightening in certain circumstances – but could be the result of phosphorescent gases given off by decaying matter, possibly from cracked or broken drains.
Pressure of underground water rushing along ancient sewers or pipes after heavy rain or during exceptionally high tides could well account for earth tremors, especially if there was some geological fault in a rock formation; and Lambert made the observation that many 'haunting's' seemed to be active at certain times of the year which coincided with such natural activity as spring tides.

Careful study of large-scale maps coupled with information about the geology of the area may help the investigator to view the information he subsequently obtains in a different light. In the case of ancient houses and properties, careful enquiries in the locality and at the local council offices, and especially the reference department of the local library, will often elicit something of the history of the place, its inhabitants and its reputation, and not infrequently it is possible to discover someone familiar with the house, such as a retired servant or elderly relative of the previous occupants or owners, who is only too eager to talk about old days and odd happenings. The initial tour of the haunted house should include the fullest examination of every part of the house, and occasional extra visits to various parts of the house (presuming that none of it has been sealed and controlled) is an excellent idea.
There must be no locked rooms that are unexamined, or locked cupboards; loose floorboards are always suspect, and I once discovered a loudspeaker extension between joists that relayed 'paranormal' sounds from next door; I have also seen a cupboard that afforded entry from the house next door. While most of the occupants of reputedly haunted houses are genuine and respectable people, there are also those who, for purposes of their own or for 'fun', produce 'phenomena' fraudulently. It is therefore of paramount importance always, in every single instance, to explore every possible (and seemingly impossible) natural cause, before even considering a supernormal explanation. Always remember that such natural things as rats and mice (*or possums) behind floor skirting, under floorboards, or in the loft, can produce very odd noises; as can a bird in the loft or in a chimney.

Faulty electrical wiring and plumbing can result in all kinds of odd happenings and noises; reflections or shadows of street lamps, passing cars, the moon, can all too often explain 'moving shadows'; and it is always wise to walk all round the house in daylight and again at night time to be thoroughly familiar with the immediate environment and near surroundings.

A railway line in the vicinity can produce vibration (and so can an underground line), and it can also produce odd sounds, lights and the familiar 'moving shadow'. Even passing traffic, the wind in a tree, an ill-fitting door or window and the measured tread of a patrolling policeman have proved to be the prosaic explanations for 'inexplicable phenomena' before now.

While ghost hunting can be exciting and is always interesting, it has to be admitted that poltergeists and other ghosts do not seem to like observers who know how to observe, and there seems to be some truth in the old adage that when the ghost hunter enters through the door the ghost flies out of the window! The great difficulty for most ghost hunters is to find haunted houses – genuine haunted houses, that is. It is a problem for every investigator, but once his serious interest in the subject is known to friends and relatives, often someone knows someone who knows of a case and after a lot of enquiries and false leads, occasionally one does find something interesting.

In addition, of course, one case soon leads to another. In this way one is likely to stumble across a case that has not been publicised and where the people concerned are prepared to cooperate to a reasonable extent. One ghost hunter advocates the close study of newspapers and magazines, and even subscribing to a press-cutting agency, but newspaper and magazine reports of ghosts and hauntings are not to be relied upon and almost invariably distort facts out of all proportion (*Amityville Horror) to what actually happened.

Furthermore this distortion and inaccuracy frequently annoys the people concerned to such an extent that they either pile falsehood upon falsehood to see just how much will be believed or, more often, they do not want any further investigations from anyone. There is also the very real danger that, in beginning an investigation based on false or exaggerated reports, the substance of the inaccurate statements is likely to be retained in the memory of the ghost hunter and, quite unconsciously, colour his findings and influence any report he may prepare.

Finally, on the subject of spontaneous ghost hunting, as opposed to seeking ghosts in the darkness of the seance room, it might be well to advise the ghost hunter and his companions as to what their reaction should be if they are fortunate enough to see a ghost – and are aware that it is a ghost at the time, which is comparatively rare.
The important thing to remember is to keep calm and keep still. There is nothing to fear. Try to be as observant as possible, but don't, as one 'investigator' did, throw a stone at a figure he saw to see whether it was real! Note as many details concerning the apparition as possible:
the exact spot it seemed to appear from;
exactly where it stands or moves;
its overall appearance;
its degree of transparency (if any);
its facial expression;
its mode of gait and whether its feet appear to touch the ground;
its method of disappearance;
details of dress and height (compare with nearby physical objects);
and whether the figure appears to walk through any objects.

Do not approach the figure; try not to move at all, but to observe everything about the figure; if it moves and turns a corner or otherwise disappears from view, follow as quietly as possible (one of the reasons for soft-soled shoes) until it disappears completely - or turns out to be a human being!
It is a good idea to press one eyeball slightly; if the object seen remains as before it has no objective reality; if you see double, there is something there - outside your head.
As soon as possible afterwards note down everything you can recall about the experience. Take your time, do the job thoroughly and talk to no one about the matter until you have completed the report to your entire satisfaction.
See that anyone else who has seen the figure does the same, but do not compare notes or discuss what you have seen or heard until all such reports are completed, dated, timed, signed, and witnessed. Then ask yourself and any other witnesses the following questions.
Could the figure (assuming that it disappeared in some mysterious way) still have been a real person;
did the build, the features, the bearing, resemble anyone you know;
could it possibly have been a shadow or reflection or a trick of the light that misrepresented a natural object;
a tree stump, a clump of bushes, a dress hanging on a line or coat-hanger, a curious formation of smoke or mist, a dog or a cow or some other animal – and are you certain beyond any doubt whatever that it was not someone playing a joke?

If apparently inexplicable sounds accompanied the sighting (or indeed if sounds only were heard and nothing was seen) is there any possibility of the noises having a natural explanation: a creaking branch, the wind whistling through a hole, down a chimney, or round a corner; a bird or some other creature caught in a chimney or in a trap or by another creature and being responsible; could it have been a creature moving among dead leaves or cooing or nesting somewhere, or an owl or cat hunting; could the footsteps (if footsteps were heard) have been real footsteps made by someone out of sight; could they have been made by cat or dog – sounds carry at night; are you sure the sounds came from where you thought they came from and that the sounds were not a hoax? If the place where you saw or heard something you cannot explain was known to you to be haunted, you must, to a certain extent, have been expecting to see a ghost; how can you be quite sure that what you saw or heard was not the product of your own imagination? Is it possible to prove that you were not dreaming? Has anyone else, before or since, seen or heard the same thing, without previously knowing about the other’s experience?
If no one else present saw or heard what you saw or heard, how do you explain this; and if anyone else did see or hear anything at that time, was anything said or done by either or any of you that could have given the other a clue as to what appeared to be happening? Have you previously had any similar experience and if so was a normal explanation ever discovered? Only when each and every one of these questions is answered with complete honesty to your entire satisfaction and to the satisfaction of everyone else present, are you entitled to think that you may have been privileged to see a ghost, and even then the odds that it was a ghost are heavily against.

Visit Peter Underwood's Website by clicking here

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